I spent a great deal of time the past week thinking about all the women who reacted with shock, amusement, or even outright fear to the thought of having a home birth. I shared a booth at a local consignment sale with a local home birth midwife and it was an interesting experience talking to and hearing the responses from women and their partners.
Why don’t more women consider the option of having a midwife or doula at their birth? I’ve been thinking there may be some women who do not know how to let themselves truly be cared for, or mothered. It may be a foreign concept to some women, particularly if they have an absent mother or are not close to their mother. For some reason, it feels safer to many women to have a hospital birth attended by virtual strangers — several nurses unknown to them and an OB/GYN they (hopefully) met during their prenatal visits. Many OB/GYN’s are male, and while there are definitely some compassionate, caring male obstetricians, they have never experienced pregnancy or birth.
It’s always seemed odd to hear a woman say she didn’t want a doula at her birth because she “just wants it to be my partner and myself”. That’s not going to happen in a busy hospital labor and delivery unit. There will be multiple nurses, depending on shift changes, and the doctor, as well as possibly an anesthesiologist. Midwife means “with woman”. Doula means “mother’s servant” or “mother’s helper”.
In childbirth classes, I ask questions about previous illnesses, emotional difficulties, or possible surgeries a woman has been through. Who did she want with her? How did she want to be taken care of? What methods soothed her? What methods didn’t? This can help a woman discover possible options for her birth — massage, hugs, reassurance, etc. In the video “Gentle Birth Choices” the point is made that women know how to mother. We learn it at a young age by watching our own mother or significant female presence. Our husbands/partners may be adoring, loving, caring individuals (and for your sake, I hope they are!) but they have not developed mothering skills like other women have. This is in no way a sexist attitude toward men– or an attempt to diminish their role in birth. You need your husband at the birth of your baby! You may also need a “mother” figure.
No matter what type of birth experience you choose, find a provider in line with your emotional and physical needs. Let yourself be mothered! You deserve it, your partner deserves it, and your baby deserves it.